Practicing breathwork is a political action.
IDK about you, but life these days feels like riding a surfboard during an earthquake in the seventh circle of hell. If you feel constantly overwhelmed, you are not alone. I am here with you.
But let’s be real: Life has kinda always been this bananas. The only difference is that the fantasy of “normal” is officially over. Gone are the days of ignoring the chaos that always surrounds us. Maybe in the past you could keep it at bay or check out from it every now and again but most of us don’t have that luxury anymore. The chaos feels inescapable.
As long as this inescapable chaos is the new normal, all we can do now is learn to breathe through it. As far as I’m concerned, at this point, breathing through the bullshit is our only option. Why mindful breathing? Because when we focus on breathing, we’re able to keep our shit together when we’re reading the news or scrolling through Twitter, when we’re in the streets, and when we’re in difficult conversations with loved ones. In these ways, I think of breath work as political action. After all, we have to take care of ourselves if we’re going to ride the waves of chaos into a future that’s no longer heavy with oppression’s veil.
Focusing on breathing is a way to harness a sense of control when everything around you seems completely out of control. In fact, in chaos, the power of inhales and exhales is undeniable and nothing less than revolutionary.
For me, when I focus on mindful breathing, I’m reminded that I’m able to carry emotional weight and that I don’t have to cocoon my trauma in shame. Trauma is part of life. And connecting with that can be an invitation to connect with who you are beneath the masks that we wear in everyday life.
In an era when we’re constantly forced to choose between warring factions, breath work illuminates the limitations created by our perceived divisions. Breath work shows us what can be gained when we value our inner wholeness and our connection to ourselves, over everything. Breath work is the key to the difficult conversations that each of us has to have with ourselves and society at large if we’re ever going to move forward together.
Your next stressful moment is probably coming sooner rather than later. We practice breath work to prepare for life’s most stressful moments, not the chill ones. If you intentionally practice breath work when you’re chill, you’ll be able to access the same tools under duress.
It’s pretty much impossible to practice breath work too much because each inhale and each exhale offers a new lesson.
Feel the breath passing in and out of your body, whether it’s through your lips or nose.
Don’t try to change anything; instead, try to accept your breath as it is right now. Accept its curvatures, tight spots, and ragged edges.
Try to let the breath flow organically. If you have trouble breathing through your nose, maybe you’ve got some snot gumming up the works. Blow your nose and try again. If breathing through your nose is still difficult or uncomfortable, just go back to breathing through your mouth.
The breath will follow the cadence of your spirit. It’s a rhythm that’s unique to you. Let it flow naturally.
If it helps, close your eyes. But it’s not a requirement. Eyes open or closed, breathing is a requirement of life.
Sit, stand, practice handstands, whatever you like; every physical posture is an opportunity to connect with your breath.
Your mind isn’t supposed to be “clear.” If you’re alive, your mind will be active. Focusing on breathing doesn’t stop thoughts; instead, it allows you to find peace with even your most erratic, chaotic, and scary thoughts.
If you start to think, Well, this is pretty fucking boring—let your mind follow that path. See what happens when you make space for your boredom instead of using it as a reason to give up.
Intentional breath work techniques are a great way to hone control over the breath and provide a portal to deeper meditation. When it feels right, start integrating techniques like alternate nostril breathing (this is a good explainer on what it is and how to do it) and breath counting (which you can learn how to do here).
Practicing breath work allows you to spend time quietly concentrating only on the air entering and leaving your body. It’s a powerful way to remember that keeping yourself going can be as simple as inhaling and exhaling. In fact, for me, establishing a connection with my breath is the one sure thing that allows me to survive when the waves of life are crashing around me.
Spending time with my breath has helped me find a home within myself. Because I have that home, I know I can weather any storm.